Great Expectations: the critical tradition

Great Expectations, as well as being popular with readers, has always attracted a good deal of attention from literary critics, and, until about thirty years ago, the following approaches to the novel were the most common:

  • as a realistic representation of life, concentrating on Dickens' creation of a convincing, if sometimes bizarre, set of events and characters in the context of a vividly imagined range of settings
  • as a moral fable, emphasizing the pilgrimage or learning journey that Pip undertakes in the course of the novel and his eventual attainment of true values and personal contentment
  • as a story about class and the problem of inherited wealth
  • as a critique of social evils ranging from the treatment of children to the shortcomings of the legal system.
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